The case for CSR/ Sustainability Reporting Done Responsibly


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Case study: How Smithfield promotes workplace diversity

Smithfield is an American food company with more than 54,000 employees globally and wholly-owned operations in the United States, Poland, Romania and the United Kingdom. Smithfield is committed to attracting, training and maintaining diverse employees and leadership who reflect the marketplace it serves.  Tweet This!

This case study is based on the 2019 Sustainability Impact Report by Smithfield published on the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Disclosure Database that can be found at this link. Through all case studies we aim to demonstrate what CSR/ ESG/ sustainability reporting done responsibly means. Essentially, it means: a) identifying a company’s most important impacts on the environment, economy and society, and b) measuring, managing and changing.

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A diverse workforce allows Smithfield to benefit from a variety of perspectives, and strengthens its global competitiveness. In order to promote workplace diversity Smithfield took action to:

  • launch Employee Business Resource Groups
  • create opportunities for veteran talent

What are the material issues the company has identified?          

In its 2019 Sustainability Impact Report Smithfield identified a range of material issues, such as animal welfare and management, food safety and quality, climate action, waste and manure management, supply chain management and responsible sourcing. Among these, promoting workplace diversity stands out as a key material issue for Smithfield.

Stakeholder engagement in accordance with the GRI Standards              

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) defines the Principle of Stakeholder Inclusiveness when identifying material issues (or a company’s most important impacts) as follows:

“The reporting organization shall identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations and interests.”

Stakeholders must be consulted in the process of identifying a company’s most important impacts and their reasonable expectations and interests must be taken into account. This is an important cornerstone for CSR / sustainability reporting done responsibly.

Key stakeholder groups Smithfield engages with:

Stakeholder Group                Method of engagement (in 2019)




·      Educated employees through new and updated trainings focused on animal care, food quality and employee safety and professional development

·      Added a new Employee Business Resource Group, the Black Professional Network, to engage more employees

·      Continued to recognise employees going above and beyond through multiple award programmes

·      Increased collaboration within Smithfield’s manufacturing and business management teams and strengthened internal business partner support





·      Worked with large retailers to begin developing a blockchain process to promote supply chain traceability for consumers

·      Continued to align with customer initiatives like Walmart’s Project Gigaton, which aims to avoid one billion metric tons of greenhouse gasses from the global value chain

·      Engaged regularly with customers in all aspects of Smithfield’s business to strengthen sustainability objectives




·      Partnered with packaging suppliers to ideate, research and test emerging recyclable and sustainable product materials for future development and implementation

·      Continued engagement and communication with hog suppliers to provide market hogs that meet customers’ requirements

Governments and Regulators


·      Coordinated efforts to protect against foreign animal diseases like African Swine Fever with international governments, federal and state regulatory agencies, state veterinarians and industry associations

·      Engaged with U.S. Trade Representative’s Office on trade policy issues such as the United States and Japan Free Trade Agreement and the United States, Mexico, Canada agreement

·      Engaged with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ensure regulatory compliance during the launch of Smithfield’s alternative protein product line

·      Partnered with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture to conduct independent trials aimed at verifying crop yields from SymTRX fertiliser

Industry Groups, NGOs and Trade Associations


·      Collaborated with the Environmental Defense Fund to continue helping farmers optimise their fertiliser use and improve soil health as well as establishing prairie grass in Northern Missouri to improve Monarch Butterfly and pollinator habitat

·      Presented on food quality and safety topics, like listeria, at industry conferences, including International Association for Food Protection 2019, North American Meat Institute Listeria Control Workshops and the Reciprocal Meat Conference

·      Maintained certification through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Process Verified Programme

·      Participated in the Pain Mitigation Task Force, an industrywide collaboration to develop objective information on assessing and mitigating pain associated with routine animal care procedures, such as castration for very young male pigs

·      Continued partnership with industry associations to maintain company engagement and support networking opportunities with hog suppliers, pork customers and affiliated industry organisations



·      Donated 6.6 million pounds of protein to neighbours in need across the United States

·      Volunteered nearly 10,000 hours in aid of hunger relief, disaster support, environmental cleanups and other causes

·      Supported more than 160 children and grandchildren of U.S. employees through educational scholarships valuing nearly $1 million

·      Stepped up veteran assistance through North Carolina State University’s Soldier to Agriculture Programme to provide veterans with hands-on training

·      Sponsored the National Conservation Foundation Envirothon, North America’s largest environmental education programme and international competition



·      Worked with the University of Minnesota to calculate 2020 baselines for Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions

·      Continued work with numerous universities in the United States and Canada to conduct research on gilt development and improve pig performance for the swine industry

·      Maintained partnerships with university experts to improve animal welfare and productivity as well as enhance Smithfield’s processes

How stakeholder engagement was made to identify material issues

To identify and prioritise material topics Smithfield interviewed its leaders and external stakeholders.

What actions were taken by Smithfield to promote workplace diversity?

In its 2019 Sustainability Impact Report Smithfield reports that it took the following actions for promoting workplace diversity:

  • Launching Employee Business Resource Groups
  • Smithfield’s Employee Business Resource Groups (EBRGs) are an expanding area of focus, as Smithfield continues to create a supportive and engaging environment. New in 2019, the Black Professional Network is helping Smithfield achieve its mission and vision by attracting, retaining, developing and promoting Black and African-American leaders. Smithfield’s EBRGs help employees fully leverage their diverse backgrounds to achieve personal and professional goals. They include:
    • the Black Professional Network
    • Women’s Connect, Smithfield’s first EBRG
    • Smithfield NEXT, connecting the millennial generation
    • Smithfield Salutes, Smithfield’s veterans focused EBRG
  • Creating opportunities for veteran talent
  • Smithfield’s Operation 4000! focused on hiring, training, retaining and employing for the long-term 4,000 veterans — 10% of Smithfield’s workforce — by the end of 2020. Smithfield added approximately 700 veterans to its workforce in 2019 and, in its effort to help veteran employees build lifelong careers, Smithfield’s offers tailored training and development opportunities. In January 2019, Smithfield launched its new Military Supervisor in Training programme, a 52-week cohort-based curriculum designed to provide essential skills training to select high-potential veterans who will become production supervisors in its facilities. Smithfield’s aim is to provide a place for veteran trainees to thrive, and create opportunities for them to develop meaningful relationships with their supervisors and connect with Smithfield’s culture, all important factors in employee retention. Smithfield also continued to partner with on-base military transition services in seven states. In April 2019, Smithfield added a physical presence at Fort Bragg military base in North Carolina with an on-site military talent acquisition specialist housed on the base to reach service members interested in transitioning to civilian life. In addition, Smithfield attended 50 military job fairs in 13 states, interacting with over 1,300 military veterans at these events.

Which GRI Standards and corresponding Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been addressed?

The GRI Standard addressed in this case is: Disclosure 405-1 Diversity of governance bodies and employees

Disclosure 405-1 Diversity of governance bodies and employees corresponds to:


80% of the world’s 250 largest companies report in accordance with the GRI Standards

SustainCase was primarily created to demonstrate, through case studies, the importance of dealing with a company’s most important impacts in a structured way, with use of the GRI Standards. To show how today’s best-run companies are achieving economic, social and environmental success – and how you can too.

Research by well-recognised institutions is clearly proving that responsible companies can look to the future with optimism.

FBRH GRI Standards Certified, IEMA & CIM recognised Sustainability Course | Venue: London LSE

By registering for the next 2-day FBRH GRI Standards Certified, IEMA & CIM recognised course you will be taking the first step in gaining the many benefits of sustainability reporting.

Most importantly, you will gain the knowledge to use the GRI Standards, project manage your own first-class sustainability report and:

  • Identify your most important impacts on the Environment, Economy and Society
  • Begin taking solid, focused, all-round sustainability action ASAP



1) This case study is based on published information by Smithfield, located at the link below. For the sake of readability, we did not use brackets or ellipses. However, we made sure that the extra or missing words did not change the report’s meaning. If you would like to quote these written sources from the original, please revert to the original on the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Disclosure Database at the link:


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